YWCA of Fiji: a long-time fighter for women, justice and peace, says Pacific activist Anne Walker

Ann Walker, member of YWCA of Fiji and co-founders of the International Womens Tribune Centre ( IWTC)

Ann Walker, member of YWCA of Fiji and co-founders of the International Women's Tribune Centre ( IWTC)

Anne Walker spent 11 years with the YWCA of Fiji that marked the beginning of her long career with grassroots women. Walker is one of the founders of the International Women’s Tribune Centre ( IWTC) and has participated as an activist and organiser in all four UN world conferences on women and NGO Forums in Mexico City (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).

In this interview with World YWCA, Walker provides a history of the YWCA of Fiji and calls on the UN to take responsibility in bringing peace to the women of Fiji.

The Pacific YWCAs, especially Fiji, have always made peace a priority in their work. How do you think this current situation will affect the work of the YWCA of Fiji and other women’s movements?

The early history of the YWCA of Fiji, certainly in terms of the work around current and public affairs in the 1960s, was very focused on the Fiji independence struggle and the fight against nuclear testing in Mururoa, French Polynesia. The YWCA took a leading role in both of these major events, joining forces with other community groups and, in the late 60s, with students from the newly established University of the South Pacific.

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UN must show commitment to UNSCR1325 and Pacific women, says leading Fijian activist

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, founding member of femLINKPACIFIC

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, founding member of femLINKPACIFIC

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls gained national prominence in Fiji by organising, through the National Council of Women, a daily prayer vigil when government leaders were held hostage for 56 days during the 2000 coup. Sharon is the founding member of femLINKPACIFIC: Media Initiatives for Women, and has been a member of the YWCA of Fiji since 1986.

In this interview, Bhagwan-Rolls shares her ideas on how the international women’s movement can support the women of Fiji and reflects on the importance of faith in addressing the current crisis.

There are many mixed reports in the international press about the freedom of Fijian media. What is the real story?

All media, including community media that includes femLINKPACIFIC is subject to the Public Emergency Regulation (2009) currently in place. The Ministry of Information, Communications and Archives have advised us that femLINKPACIFIC is also, as we expected, subject to the directives of issued to the mainstream media organisations under the Public Emergency Regulations 2009, which include:

  • that all media organisations should comply with the requirements under the regulations and refrains from broadcasting or publishing any news item that is negative in nature which undermines the Government
  • that for practical reasons the Permanent Secretary (Information) will be assigned to media outlets to work closely with the respective editors/publishers to ensure that all items for broadcast and publishing comply with the regulations.

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Ruth Lechte, veteran activist, on crisis in Fiji

The World YWCA will feature several interview with Fijian women leaders on the current crisis in Fiji this week. We  will post the interviews on the blog as well.  The World YWCA has called for solidarity with the women and girls in Fiji as they face political instability. UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and conflict calls for women’s full participation in peace building.  Read how women in Fiji feel the government and international community can contribute to peace in Fiji.

Ruth Lechter, Fijian activist and YWCA leader

In this interview, Ruth Lechte, National General Secretary of Fiji YWCA from 1962, South Pacific Regional Secretary from 1974, and World YWCA Secretary for Energy and Environment /Appropriate Technology from 1984-94, discusses the immediate issues facing women in Fiji and what the World YWCA needs to do next.

What are the most pressing issues now facing women and children in Fiji?

How long have you got?! The long answer is a description of how the major cultures work and the religions control people thus ensuring women have a second-class status.

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